Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
It's too bad that those who subscribed to NHL GameCenter Live (like myself) couldn't watch the "Triumphant Return," as was NHL.com's headline this morning, of Connor McDavid to the ice. The rookie phenom had been sidelined by a broken clavicle that cost him 37 games and it would have been great to be able to watch him dazzle on the heels of an impressive NHL All-Star Weekend. But, the note from the website was: Media Error. Video not available.
So, we're left with the highlights and if you haven't seen it, McDavid's goal last night was the stuff of legend. With the game tied at 1-1, McDavid took the puck in the neutral zone and hit the blueline as two Columbus Blue Jackets players converged on him. He left Jackets' d-man Jack Johnson looking for his jockstrap, had defenseman Justin Faulk literally tripping over himself as he fell to the ice while he whizzed past him and made Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo look like the 21 year old rookie he is.
McDavid had three points on the night as Edmonton defeated Columbus 5-1 and served notice that he is back. Not only back on the ice trying to help the Oilers rise from their post All-Star break 29th place in the standings, but he also let the hockey world know that he's back in the Calder Trophy race for Rookie of the Year.
Before his injury McDavid was named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for October on the strength of 12 points (5g+7a) in 12 games but he was felled in a November 3, 2015 game vs. the Philadelphia Flyers. Since then, Chicago's Artemi Panarin has been the runaway leader in points by a rookie (even though he's 24 yrs. old.) Panarin lead an outstanding rookie class that featured Detroit's Dylan Larkin and Arizona's Max Domi as well as Buffalo's Jack Eichel.
Eichel was picked second-overall by the Sabres in the 2015 NHL Draft and will forever be linked to McDavid. The two thoroughbreds of the draft class even had their own moniker--"McEichel."
The injury to McDavid and a slow start from Eichel pushed the two into the background while the others made their mark, but the two are charging fast from off the pace and Panarin may soon have some company. Eichel entered the All-Star break with 18 points (7+11) in his last 16 games, two goals and two assists in his last two games before the break. And with McDavid's game last night, he's on a pace to score roughly 50 points (20+30) in only 45 games.
It will be great to watch, preferably live if the NHL can take care of their glitches.
For those who think that goaltending is overrated, take a look at the plights of the Jackets and the Montreal Canadiens.
Columbus entered the season with playoff intentions. Last year they were hammered by injuries which lead to a disasterous start to the season. They went on a tear to get them to respectability and many had them in the playoff mix for this season. Unfortunately, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was a sieve to the tune of 26 goals on 162 shots (.839 sv%) as he started out the season 0-6-0.
Back up Curtis McElhinney didn't fare all that much better as he gave up six goals on 52 shots (.885 sv%) in his first two games and the Jackets found themselves in an 0-8-0 hole to start the season with a new coach behind the bench.
Conversely, the Canadiens were smokin' to start the season as they came out of the gate 9-0-0 and were one win shy of tying the NHL record for most consecutive regulation wins to start the season. Montreal goalie Carey Price, the reigning Hart and Vezina Trophy winner (among many other awards,) allowed only nine goals in seven games on 228 shots (.961 sv%) while the offense was lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 35 goals during that nine-game winning streak.
Then it hit. Price went down and the Canadiens find themselves out of the Wild Card picture by five points. What happened to Montreal?
TVA, Montreal's Renaud Lavoie explained on Hockey Hotline yesterday.
"I know it seems pretty strange to say that (Montreal's record) is all on Carey Price," Lavoie told hosts Kevin Sylvester and Andrew Peters, "but at the end of the day that's the only way to see it."
"When I look at this situation, look at the core-group," continued Lavoie, "I look at what they did the last three seasons with Price, and you know what, you have to say that yes, he is the leader of that team, yes, he is the best player in the NHL and he makes a difference every night. Now we have the answer to our question. If he's not there, it's really tough for that group to play without him."
Lavoie went on to say that a situation like that is "[perfectly] normal." Price was the MVP of the NHL last season and Lavoie called him the MVP of the Montreal Canadiens the past three seasons. He's on the ice for 60 minutes as opposed to the best skaters who are on the ice for 20-30 and the team plays with much more confidence with an elite goalie having their backs.
This is not the same team and as they stand on the precipice of missing the playoffs, the Canadiens, all of a sudden, are forced to consider whether they'll be buyers or sellers at the February 29 trade deadline.
The Habs don't have the firepower of the Blackhawks or the Washington Capitals, nor do they even have the one-two superstar punch of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They're a team with a lot of talent who's best player was their goaltender.
Tonight they take on the Buffalo Sabres who have been going through some serious growing pains this season. They've been inconsistent the majority of the season, but have been playing withouth their No.1 goalie in Robin Lehner. Granted, Lehner is no Price, but the whole confidence thing holds true nonetheless.
Buffalo has gotten better and has looked much stronger since Lehner's return on January 15 although their 3-4-0 would beg to differ. Lehner himself has been exceptional in net eve though he's only 1-3-0. He's faced 145 shots since his return from a high-ankle sprain and allowed nine goals for a .938 sv% and it seems as if he's allowing the Sabres offence to try and get themselves untracked.
Tonight's matchup is big for both teams, but the difference may come down to having a No. 1 goalie in net.
Finally, a quick juxtaposition of two Johns--football's Johnny Manziel and hockey's John Scott.
Manziel, the crown prince of college football came into the league with the moniker, "Johnny Football," and proceeded to party his way through two inglorious seasons that constituted the debacle that was his pro football career in Cleveland.
The former Heisman winner came in with the image of him in a pool on a floating swan with a bottle of champagne in his hand. This would get Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame wide receiver Andre Reed in a dander as he was being interviewed for a NY Magazine piece.
Manziel called LeBron James, "my guy" in a tweet to which Reed replied, "Who the f**k is he?
"LeBron ain't your guy! You're not 'Johnny Football'. You're Johnny Rookie B!tch!"
And that was about it. In his short two years he was more like "Johnny Idoit" and looked like a complete fool on the playing field. If you want to look up the stats, go right ahead. Off the field might have been worse as he ended up in Las Vegas while injured during the season under the alias "Billy Manziel." He also was involved in two domestic violence disputes, the latest last month that had police helicopters searching for him in Texas.
From "Johnny Football" to "Johnny Bench (courtesy, Jerry Sullivan, Buffalo News," to "Johnny Affluenza" to soon-to-be "Johnny Nobody."
On the other hand, hockey's John Scott is one of a dying breed of players who make their living with their fists. The noted pugilist who's stat-line reads 5g, 11a, 542 penalty minutes in 285 games stretching over eight NHL seasons.
As a joke he was a write-in candidate by the fans for this year's All-Star game while he was with the Arizona Coyotes. When it looked as if he was a shoe-in to be voted in, the Coyotes and Canadiens worked out a trade, probably at the behest of the NHL, to save the integrity of the All-Star Game and they continued to try and get him to step away. But he didn't.
Scott ended up getting the whole hockey community on his side after publishing a piece in Derek Jeter's Players Tibute entitled, A Guy Like Me. In it he talked about his journey to the NHL which began at a young age by being cut from every junior team, studying for his mechanical engineering degree while riding the bus for Michigan Tech, catching a break to start his professional career and eventually working his way up to the NHL level.
What we also came to find out is that he has two very young daughters and his wife is pregnant with twins that were due sometime after All-Star weekend. We also came to find out that it was an NHL guilt trip that set him off, "Do you think this is something your kids would be proud of?” asked an unnamed NHL executive.
Well, 10-15 years from now when their cognizant of the world around them, yes they will be proud as the weekend belonged to, "A guy like him."
Scott is a fun-loving player who realizes just how lucky he's been. Sure, he's not the most talented and his breed will go the way of the Do-do's, but he's fully in the moment, but not in a self-serving, Manziel-type way.
Media coverage was wide-spread throughout the weekend and even filtered over into the regular media. Hell, they were even talking about him on CNBC, a financial channel (props to them for knowing about the sport as well.) And last night it continued in the snowy outpost known as Traverse City, MI where Scott was being interviewed by NBCSN. He was shown outside with snow falling complete with knit hat and puffy winter coat and was there in the snow because they couldn't get the live truck up to his house. So he trudged down to meet them.
Word is that someone approached him about doing a movie and although it might be taking it to an extreme, he'll probably at least have a book in the works at some time. His is a great story by a seemingly very humble guy who's living a dream while trying to take care of his family.
Quite frankly, a movie like that probably wouldn't go over that well.
The trashy, wasted life of Manziel, however, would make for a great B-movie which you can simply title, "Johnny Fraud."